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70 & Sunny: Two San Diegans, Decades Apart, Talk Trust and Courage

Mel lives in Chula Vista, and Roen is a sixth grader in City Heights
Nate Hoffman

Mel Bechtel

71, retired coach and school bus driver, Chula Vista

How has Coronado changed over the years?

When I was growing up you could leave your keys in the car. We used to steal the neighbor’s car to do our paper route—one time we ran out of gas and had to push the car back.

Do you have any pets?

Bailey is my companion dog. We rescued her as a puppy, and she’s helped me a lot since my heart transplant—I’m one year post heart transplant. I was able to walk out of the hospital after five days.

Has the heart transplant given you a new lease on life?

It’s made me want to hike more. One day I’d like to do Potato Chip Rock.

What did you learn from working with kids?

You want to build up trust. I made a point to talk to certain kids every single day, just to let them know I see them and that I’m there if they need me.

Roen Carlson

11, sixth grader, City Heights

What are the best qualities in a friend?

Silly, caring, enthusiastic. They have to know how to make you laugh.

Who inspires you the most?

Ms. Kellyanna. She used to work at my after-school arts program, Generations. She always helped me through hard times, and she taught me “Stand By Me” on the ‘ukulele.

Do you consider yourself artistic?

I like free-form painting and abstract art because you can make something unique from simple shapes. I do a lot of acting, too. We work with the San Diego Opera, and last year I got to speak in front of the audience.

Did that make you nervous?

To speak in front of a thousand people? No.

Mel (left) and Roen

Nate Hoffman

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